QUARTERBACK ANTHONY LAWRENCE IS DEDICATED TO THE GAME
With 8 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter of USD’s 2015 football season opener against San Diego State, Toreros quarterback Anthony Lawrence jogged onto the Qualcomm Stadium field for the first play of his college career.
The Toreros trailed the Aztecs 27-0. In USD’s first 11 possessions, the Toreros’ offense managed to get into San Diego State territory just twice. Following five turnovers, six punts and just three first downs, head coach Dale Lindsey looked to his bench to change things up. So before an announced crowd of 48,785, with his offense struggling, Lawrence, an averaged-sized, then redshirt first-year out of El Cajon’s Grossmont High, walked into the huddle for injured starter Trey Wheeler and …
“He was smiling,” recalls USD wide receiver Justin Priest. “You knew he wouldn’t wet his pants.”
In his first series, Lawrence proceeded to lead USD to a field goal, its lone score in a 37-3 defeat. The next week, Wheeler’s shoulder injury prevented him from playing
against Western New Mexico. Head coach Dale Lindsey gave the ball to Lawrence, who proceeded to throw for 254 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-21 victory.
Lawrence would be the starter for the rest of the season. He guided the Toreros to a 9-2 record and a share of the Pioneer Football League title, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,392 yards and 23 touchdowns. He suffered only six interceptions.
By a vote of his teammates, the young man who began the season on the bench was selected USD’s most valuable player.
“I think the kids made a good choice,” says Lindsey. “In the locker room, it’s hard to fool your buddies.”
When Lawrence reported to USD in August 2014 he was one of four new quarterbacks. At a fraction over 6 feet tall and weighing 190 pounds, he was the smallest of the new QBs. He did not possess the strongest arm.
“The one deciding factor he had that they didn’t is that he has a natural knack to play the position,” says Lindsey. “It’s called instinct.”
Lawrence is football’s equivalent of a basketball gym rat. He began playing Pop Warner at the age of 9 and was a three-year starter at Grossmont High, throwing for a San Diego Section-record 9,079 yards. As for dedication, he was strong enough in high school to lift weights with the offensive linemen, and in an effort to grow as tall as possible, he would hang upside down in gravity boots.
He’s liked by his USD teammates for multiple reasons. He can be playful, jawing with defensive backs, telling them he could turn them in circles if he played wide receiver. He’s independent, rocking about campus in turtlenecks and shorts that stretch far above the knees.
“He’s a fashion statement,” jokes Priest.
But mostly he’s respected for the way he plays the game.
“The best way to describe Anthony is that he’s just a football player,” says offensive lineman Miles McArdle. “He loves football and knows how to play the game.”
Lawrence’s memorable redshirt first-year season ended in frustration when he broke his right leg in a season-ending home victory against Butler. Despite a second surgery necessitated by infection, he recovered and is expected to be behind center at the start of the season.
Three weeks before the Toreros reported for practice, Lawrence was ready: “I could go out and play right now.”
With three years of eligibility remaining, Lawrence might one day threaten Mason Mills’ school record of 11,099 yards passing. He’s not thinking that far ahead, though.
“I’m just grateful a great program like USD gave me an opportunity,” he says. “I’m just trying to make the most of it.” — Don Norcross